Connection is Everything

It warrants a special mention that the chains of event you inadvertently spur into action and the random people you meet in equally random places can impact your life in ways you could never possibly predict from the outset. Concrete testament to this notion is my encounter with the Fox.

I met a girl named Mary Fox back at Spicy Thai hostel in Chiang Mai. She was a crazy, live for everything every single second kinda gal; Minnesota born n’ bred and an all singin’, all dancin’ actress if ever there was one. Instantly approachable, warm and fun, she clearly possessed a heart of infinite carat gold in tow with her sparkling champagne smile. The first encounter with the Fox transpired one night during a group dinner down at a local food haunt. In the middle of a hot curry, the Fox commanded my attention down the table with, “Hey man, do you realise you look like Gerard Butler?”. Confused as to who the hell Gerard Butler was, my ego copped a considerable stroking when I learned he was King Leonidas from the film 300 - stroked again when she backed it up with a sly wink, “What are you doin later?”.

The Fox and I were good buddies for no more than five or so days – quite a long friendship in ‘backpacker time’, where people perpetually enter your life sometimes for little more than a few hours, or a one night session down at the pub. You connect, drain the red paint tin, then drunkenly swap emails or Facebook surnames and swear to high heaven you’ll stay in touch until the earth ends. But of course, time flies and the old faces get replaced with a stream of fresher ones; you meet new people, you forget names, lose those little bits of paper with all the details as the cycle repeats itself. From the outset it was difficult to believe that the situation with Foxy would be any different, no matter how much she stroked my ego with allusions of my resemblance to a beefcake Spartan warriors. We kindled an amicable friendship and jammed on guitar, frequently getting wankered on buckets of Thai whisky and enjoying late night chats about life, direction, home and love. I learned she’d left her fella back home after a five year tryst and seemed a little puzzled, if not a tad non-plussed as to how it all unravelled in the end. She’d been living in New York, working part time as an actress and paying her bills as a bartender at a local haunt. Decent at sorting the wheat from the chaff, I knew I had a connection with the Fox and realised she was a keeper, someone to share travel stories with and keep in touch with despite our seemingly divergent roads. Bound for Europe, she left us – destination: some crazy bloody pilgrimage across Spain called the Camino de Santiago. Never heard of it. Sounded like a bloody lunatic mission.

We kept in touch. I wrote Facebook messages declaring in gest that I’d one get my ass over to ‘Sota and hang with her again. As always, her response was more than enthusiastic. Foxy pulsed around Europe for a while as I kept fanging it around Asia, before hitting up London, Dublin and Edinburgh, and suddenly finding myself for whatever falutin reason on the very same thigh-bleedin’ Camino de Santiago that i was destined to fail and she was destinated to nail. We missed each other in Barcelona by a thread, and again in Pamplona and Roncevalles. And when I piked on the Camino after my knee went to shit, our Spanish rendezvous was seemingly not to be.

But that wasn;t the end of it. Time passed. I flew to the States. Foxy kept walking through the Spanish countryside and somehow got to the end without losing a leg or her sanity. I was two weeks into the San Francisco leg and the idea to go check out New York suddenly seemed a pertinent option. Workmates JD and AJ would be there at the same time, plus the big apple just felt like the right place to be at that particular moment. As fate would have it I noticed on Foxy’s facebook status that she was ‘back in NYC'. It was ridiculously excellent timing. I got in touch again; she was thrilled to hear that i ws planning to head over, and demanded that I come stay with her in a spare room at her Queens apartment for as long as I liked.

So it was after our two nights of Marriot largesse that I made the trek into unchartered territory to Queens on the number 7 subway. Fears of collapse and tales of financial dread swarmed out of the flurry of mouths on the platform fo Grand Central Station. This Wall St stuff was big news, unprecedented economic breakdown unseen in the history of our deregulated world. It was on the overland section of the number 7 that i witness the glorious vista of New York City from a healthy distance. It was put in my place with an arrant dose of gobsmack at the sight of the sprawl - the unmistakable Empire State and Chrysler building and the never ending jungle of scrapers.

The snapshot reel of this afternoon is well entrenched in my memory – the very first breath and taste of Woodside, Queens - the awesome little neighbourhood that I was very soon about to call my home. I instantly fell in love with the place, the Irish pubs on every corner enmeshed with all manner of international restaurants, cafes and stores. It was a melting pot and a half, full of characters and a real community neighbourhood vibe with unmistakable soul. The wonderful Fox met me at the foot of the 61st Woodside station steps on this glorious, sunny New York noon. We'd reunited at last, me and my Chang Mai buddy – worlds apart one day and at each others’ side the next. Over diner eggs n relentless godawful black Americano cawfee we spewed travel stories and updates on our lives at each other, much of it centering on our mutual disbelief at the physical torment of the Chafo de Santiago. At one point down the trail Foxy was told bluntly by a Spanish GP that chances of her actually completing the trek in its entirety were borderline zero. She managed to soldier on with deep blistery gashes, rigging up her legs and feet with a mesh of bandage and duct tape, defying all odds before collapsing at the foot of the Santiago cathedral in an exhausted, sweaty, jubilant mess. She offerred me a squiz at the bottoms of her feet - they looked like a grey pumice scrubber and her big toenail had died a black death. I took my hat off to the woman for nailing it.

Eyeing the daily hum and drum and rattle of trains outside in the hood, we mused on our plans for the coming weeks. She would be moving back to Minnesota in October, heading back for two weddings before shacking up with her folks for a while in order to get some cash back in the coffers. Ever enthusiastic and inclusive, she became overjoyed at the prospect of bringing me back to Minnesota with her as the novelty Australian, an offer I couldn’t refuse. Mary’s apartment was more than I ever expected - a cosy Spanish-esque terrace villa that had guitars mounted in the living room and a seriously awesome vibe that emanated right through the joint. Planes shot low over our heads as we sat on the front steps and smoked a cigarette, a deafening roar that, coupled with the slicing rumble of the overground 7 subway, provided an unmistakable soundtrack to the neighbourhood and an on-schedule cacophony that took a good few days to get used to.

Life for JD and AJ was a little rough after checking out of the Marriot, as they struggled to find any vacant hostels and very nearly got mugged by a belt-fisted fruitbat downtown during diner lunch. Foxy came to their rescue, demanding that I invite them to join the party and stay with us in Queens as well. Needless to say, they were overjoyed at fortuitous turn of events. We got the party started early and began smashing piss at the ol’ favourite Irish den the ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’, downing a series of afternoon pints and ambitious array of miscellaneous liquor. We were introduced to Mary’s mate Anne - a skinny blonde, boisterous and wild, and after being invited to her wedding in Minnesota in October on sight, we got to listen to her belt out some amazing songs back at the apartment. JD and I joined in and jammed out duel sax that filtered out all bleedin’ gums like into the night through the front window ajar. We met Sarah; Mary’s housemate and lifelong pal – a blonde, warm and gorgeous Midwest gal with a cute smile that melted me. Words fail in describing the elation and excitement of these first few days and nights with Foxy and her bevy of beautiful, intoxicating blonde girlfriends. The hard, fast, relentless arsehole reputation of New York was being busted as a myth and it seemed like all my Christmases had come at once. I would later learn that Mary and Sarah’s friends Laura and Nicki, as well as an out of towner Katie would also be living with us over the next few weeks.
A lone Australian living abroad with five women. I wasn’t leaving any time soon.

That night was a sheer bender, cabbing past the Empire cityscape downtown for a live gig featuring a good aquaintence of the girls, later returning for a second round at the Cuckoo’s Nest for a final sousing with AJ before his morning departure back home. I slept far too well that night, peering out the window to the trees above, the stars behind them, and the rousing, overwhelming black city sky, something that would blow my mind as I got to absorb the place as the days went on. There’s something about the sky over New York that was unlike any other sky I’d seen, like the enormity of the amazing city and its vibrant glory was duely reciprocated by the sky above, mirroring its magnitude like a deep ocean. I scoped flurries of brilliant blue then clusters of storybook nighttime cloud, and some of the most amazing sunsets witnessed by these two eyes. The enormity of the endless skyscrapers and cityscape amplify the natural world.
It is a magic place.

Though woken the next morning by the startling roar of an artillery of airplanes headed for LaGuardia airport, in a week or two like Darryl Kerrigan of Coolaroo, I would fail to take much notice of the clamor as it blended into the natural soundscape of daily life, Woodside, Queens, NY. Everything felt right with the move to New York – everything. I’d discovered somewhere I never wanted to leave, and a group of amazing, wonderful, creative people who had opened up their lives to me – wide and warm, without any question. All thanks to a chance encounter with a random Foxy lady in Thailand. Thank God she was delusional enough to think I looked like Gerard Butler.

No comments: